On August 26, 2020 the United States celebrates the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which ended the decades-long fight by suffragists for women to be allowed to vote.In her latest exhibition, opening at Brooklyn-based Theodore: Art to coincide with the occasion, the artist Michelle Vaughan is looking at feminist history. But instead of celebrating those who led the fight for equality, shes taking a hard look at some of the women who have held it back.
A Movement of Women features pastel portraits of some 40 womenculled from the pantheon of conservative activism. Some areluminaries of a previous generation of anti-feminist women, like singer and anti-gay activist Anita Bryant, author and objectivist philosopher Ayn Rand, and anti-Equal Rights Amendment campaigner Phyllis Schlafly (recently also examined in the Hulu series Mrs. America). Others, likeBetsey DeVos, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, or Kellyanne Conway, are familiar from recent headlines.
Why train the spotlight on such figures?Vaughn tells Artnet News that the project actually began back in 2016, when history-making candidate Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but lost the election. When post-election analysis revealed that educated white women had voted for Trumpeven after the infamous Access Hollywood tapeshe decided to look into conservative women, to unravel what looked to me like a giant paradox.
A selection of portraits from Michelle Vaughans A Movement of Women (2020). Courtesy of the artist and Theodore: Art.
The show is presented as a genuine investigation, amassing a huge reserve of information about conservative women including a research library and archival materials in addition to the 40 pastels.
Perhaps the most striking components of the show are the quotes Vaughan selected, presented as letterpress prints painstakingly hand-set on decidedly feminine-pink office paper, and juxtaposed with the beaming portraits. Each picks out one of the more despicable quips associated with the women in question.
The more outrageous might sound like raw material for SNL skits or Twitter memese.g. Ann Coulter declaring, [i]t would be a much better country if women did not vote. Vaughn wants viewers to really scrutinize the words and the faces behind them and ponder the complexities of American political history.
Michelle Vaughan: A Movement of Women is on view at Theodore:Art in Brooklyn from August 26October 22, 2020. Before the show opens, prints are available at a discounted price of $80 (originally $100).
Michelle Vaughan, Ann Coulter (2020). Courtesy of the artist and Theodore Art.
Michelle Vaughan, It Would Be (quote by Ann Coulter) (2020). Courtesy of the artist and Theodore Art.
Michelle Vaughan, Phyllis Schlafly (2020). Courtesy of the artist and Theodore Art.
Michelle Vaughan, What I am defending (quote by Phyllis Schlafly) (2020). Courtesy of the artist and Theodore Art.
Michelle Vaughan, Suzanne Silvercruys (2020). Courtesy of the artist and Theodore Art.
Michelle Vaughan, There are Practically (quote by Suzanne Silvercruys) (2020). Courtesy of the artist and Theodore Art.
Michelle Vaughan, Anita Bryant (2020). Courtesy of the artist and Theodore Art.
Michelle Vaughan, If Gays are Granted (quote by Anita Bryant) (2020). Courtesy of the artist and Theodore Art.
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